Real Estate

Safe online shopping: 10 tips to avoid getting burned

You need to buy gifts for the holidays and you need to buy them quickly. You can brave the shopping craze at your local mall or kick back at home and shop for all your gifts online. Doing your holiday shopping online can be a great way to save time while finding the right gifts at the best price. You’ll skip the parking lot wars, prevent your fellow shoppers from catching the flu, and stay out of the sights of pickpockets. But while it can be easy and convenient to shop in your pajamas, you still need to take precautions to ensure your electronic ‘wallet chains’ are safe and secure. Here are some simple tips for safe online shopping:

Secure your computer. Make sure your home computer has up-to-date security software installed and run a regular system scan to keep keylogging viruses away from hackers.

ONLY shop from home. Please do not shop online from the local coffee shop, airport or other public places. These open networks are easier targets for identity thieves to hack into your computer. Only shop from your secure home network.

Click carefully. Your favorite store just sent you a great coupon! But wait! Before you click on email links, make sure you know where they lead. The scam emails can look like the real thing from your favorite stores, with links that appear to take you to legitimate sites. But hover over the link and you might see a different web address; this could be a fake site, designed to collect your credit card information for fraud. Your safest bet is to manually navigate to your favorite retailer’s website.

Know your merchant. One of the best parts of shopping online is easily comparing prices to find a great deal. You can find the gift you want for half the price, but make sure the merchant is reputable and trustworthy. If you’ve never done business with a merchant before, look for reviews online. Using aggregators like Amazon.com and Yahoo Shopping is another good way to make sure your merchant doesn’t take you on a fraudulent sleigh ride.

Lock down your site. When visiting a retailer’s website, look for “https” at the beginning of the URL. This “s”, along with a small gold padlock in the lower right corner of your browser, indicates an additional level of security for your online purchases.

Sign off. Always log out safely when leaving a website.

Check if your payment details are stored. Some online shopping sites ask if you want to store your payment details for future purchases. It’s always helpful to have your information stored, especially if you use that site often. But, be careful with this on lesser known websites.

Compare ‘real’ prices. Make sure you know how much you will be charged for shipping and if any taxes or fees will be added to your online purchase. These ‘extras’ can add up quickly, so be sure to include them when shopping around. Many retailers offer free shipping over the holidays, and others allow free in-store pickup for your online purchases—easy ways to add extra savings to your holiday shopping.

Learn about the Return Policy. Please read the merchant’s return policy before making your purchase. One of the downsides of shopping online is the inability to “try it on” or view the item before you buy it, so make sure your merchant offers an easy way to return/refund your purchase if it’s not what you expected.

Choose Credit, not Debit. If possible, use a credit card to pay for online purchases. Federal law limits your liability to $50 in the event of fraud. Better yet, many credit card companies will waive this responsibility and offer advanced fraud detection and protection programs to keep you safe.

Be aware. If you make a lot of purchases online, be sure to review your account and credit card statements regularly to verify all charges. If you have questions about a transaction or suspect fraud, call your financial institution right away.

Save your receipts! Just like with store purchases, you’ll want to save all receipts for online purchases. You can choose to save emailed receipts to your computer or print and file them with other receipts.

The bottom line! You can take advantage of the great shopping opportunities on the Internet and still have peace of mind!

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